How To Build Your Dog’s Confidence
Some dogs just seem to be born oozing with confidence that stays with them for the rest of their lives.
For other dogs, particularly rescue pups who’ve had a tough start in life, confidence is something that has to be worked on.
Building confidence is something that Jacqui’s become an expert on since her pups Basil and Dillis joined the display team and have gone from being shy and scared to stars of the show.
So we asked her to share her top tips on how you can build your dog’s confidence….
- Take it in baby steps
Jacqui says: ‘When I first got Basil, a rescue pup, he was very shut down and non-responsive. He wouldn’t even look up when I first got him home, so I had my work cut out.
‘Firstly, I introduced him to well-behaved, easy-going dogs so he could watch and learn from their behaviour. I then made sure he had a safe environment of his own where he could retreat to if he needed to be alone or feel reassured. For him, this was a crate with lots of nice comfy bedding.
‘Soon after, I took him along to puppy classes which Paws For Thought were running. It was a chance for him to learn about being on a lead and to meet other young dogs, even if some of them were a bit too ‘in your face’ for him.
‘After these steps, and after lots of cuddles and reassurance, I began to notice him slowly coming out of his shell.’
- Introduce toys
Jacqui says: ‘Because of his rough start in the world, Basil hadn't had the chance to enjoy playtime like other puppies. I know using toys can be a great way to build a dog’s confidence so I started to slowly get him interested in a few toys.
‘The range of tug toys from Tug-E-Nuff quickly became favourites. I used to sit on the floor with him and wiggle a tug toy in front of his nose making silly noises until he showed interest. Then, I’d wait until he had it in his mouth before pulling playfully. Over time, tug has become a favourite game and it’s been great to use play time to show him that it’s ok to let your guard down and have some fun.’
- Focus on their strengths
Jacqui says: ‘I’m a big believer in working with your dog’s strengths and natural abilities to get the best results. I noticed soon after getting Basil that he liked to jump on top of things to be ‘high up’.
‘So when it came to teaching him tricks, I went for the ‘elephant’ trick as a starting point. This is when he puts two front paws on an upturned bucket and then moves around the bucket in a circle using his back legs.
‘I initially used a clicker and treats to reward him for putting his paws on the bucket (something he was naturally interested in doing anyway). He quickly got the hang of it and soon all I needed to say was ‘on it’ and he will jump up on the bucket (or anything, for that matter).
‘Getting him to use his back legs took a bit more time, but we got there in the end.’
- Give it time
Jacqui says: ‘Patience and staying positive are the main things to remember if you are trying to build a dog’s confidence.
‘Dogs have no idea that their behaviour needs changing so they do not have the will to change it on their own – it is up to the owner to make the transition positive, fun and doable.
‘With my dogs, I find it helpful to write down the behaviour I want to work on, for example ‘improving recall’. I then write down what I need to make that happen, for example a whistle, a favourite tug toy and a safe, quiet environment, and I plan when I can spend time working on it.
‘Remember it can take humans 21 days for a new behaviour to become a habit so prepare for it to take at least that long for a dog to change.’
What’s your secret for boosting your dog’s confidence? Comment below or let us know over on Facebook.